Rapid reaction: Air Raid finds its groove as Mississippi State topples Missouri
If this is one of the final memories of Mississippi State football in 2020, Mike Leach has plenty to build around next season, mostly because of the slew of underclassmen in key positions for the Bulldogs.
Mississippi State took advantage of multiple Missouri turnovers, and the Air Raid found its grove as the Bulldogs built a big lead in the first half, and coasted in the second half for a 51-32 victory. Mizzou responded a bit early in the second half, but MSU leaned on its newfound running game as the Bulldogs eclipsed 100 yards rushing for the first time this season.
MSU QB Will Rogers started 0-for-4 in the game, then was 13-for-23 by halftime for 198 yards and two touchdowns. He connected with eight different receivers. The Bulldogs averaged 8.1 yards per play in the first half. MSU got 13 points off turnovers in the first half alone, as Mizzou had three fumbles, lost one, and Connor Bazelak threw an interception late in the first half, which led to a field goal.
Bazelak ultimately threw three interceptions, including a Pick Six late in the fourth quarter when Emmanuel Forbes returned his second of the season. The high-scoring Bulldogs reached the 50-point mark in a game for the 10th straight season.
Lost in the tough game for Mizzou was another big game from RB Larry Rountree, who averaged five yards per carry and had 121 yards with two touchdowns, his fifth game of at least 100 yards this season.
After halftime, the Mizzou adjustment on defense was three corners instead of four safeties. But the Tigers suffered a targeting ejection to Jaylon Carlies, and two plays later, MSU tacked on another touchdown. That hurt the already shorthanded Mizzou defense, and the adjustment was to move freshman receiver Kris-Abrams Draine to cornerback, and Shawn Robinson, who began the season as the starting quarterback, also moved to the secondary as he also changed his jersey number in recent weeks. Early in the fourth quarter, Robinson nearly made an interception on a third down play, then actually made a pick late in the game.
Mizzou got a rare takeaway, a fumble in the third quarter, as it was the first turnover in three games. Then the Tigers got a MSU penalty on fourth down, and scored one play later when Bazelak hit Keke Chism for the score, and he also caught a two-point conversion.
Entering Saturday, the teams were headed in opposite directions. The Bulldogs were in danger of losing a fourth consecutive game for the second time this season. The Tigers were looking to win four of their final five games. MSU ended the regular season 3-7, while Mizzou fell to 5-5. But for the most part, they didn’t play in Starkville like they have for much of the season, although Mizzou finished the regular season with two forgettable outings against Georgia and MSU.
A big blow came early in the game for the Mississippi State defense when Erroll Thompson, the senior captain and key linebacker, was ejected for targeting from his final regular season game for the Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs got a good break early when Cade Musser muffed the punt and it bounced into the end zone where long snapper Paul Blackwell recovered for a touchdown.
Long 👏 Snapper 👏 Touchdown 👏 pic.twitter.com/xkXhQd5o95
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) December 19, 2020
It was a rough start for MSU as Rountree broke several tackles to open the scoring from 18 yards out to open the game. Then Rogers was 0-for-4 on MSU’s first drive, and 3-for-3 and a touchdown on the second drive.